A Tale of Two Imperial Wonders: Exploring Beijing’s Summer Palace and Yuanmingyuan

Welcome to our family travel blog! Today, we’re excited to share an unforgettable journey through Beijing’s historical treasures—the Summer Palace and the Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace). These magnificent imperial sites offer a glimpse into China’s rich history and a tranquil escape from the bustling city. Join us as we explore the grandeur and serenity of these two remarkable destinations.

Exploring the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, known as “Yiheyuan” in Chinese, is a sprawling imperial garden and palace complex located in the northwest suburbs of Beijing. It was first built during the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century and has since been a symbol of harmony between nature and architecture.

Getting There

To reach the Summer Palace, you can take a short subway ride or hire a taxi from downtown Beijing. We recommend starting early to avoid the crowds and to make the most of your day.

Highlights at the Summer Palace

  • Kunming Lake: The vast Kunming Lake stretches across the complex, offering picturesque boat rides in summer and ice skating in winter.
  • Longevity Hill: Climb to the top of Longevity Hill to visit the iconic Tower of Buddhist Incense, which provides panoramic views of the palace and the city beyond.
  • Marble Boat: Explore the famous Marble Boat, a symbol of imperial extravagance and resilience.

Discovering the Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace)

The Yuanmingyuan, or Old Summer Palace, is located adjacent to the Summer Palace. However, it tells a vastly different story. Once a magnificent imperial garden, it was looted and destroyed during the Second Opium War in 1860. Today, its ruins serve as a haunting reminder of China’s turbulent past.

Exploring the Ruins

As you walk through the ruins of the Yuanmingyuan, you’ll be immersed in a surreal landscape of shattered palaces, crumbling bridges, and moss-covered sculptures. It’s a place where history meets nature, and every stone tells a story.

Practical Tips

  • Combined Ticket: Consider purchasing a combined ticket for both the Summer Palace and the Yuanmingyuan to save on admission fees.
  • Comfortable Footwear: Wear comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll be exploring extensive grounds.
  • Local Eateries: Don’t forget to try local snacks and dishes at the nearby food stalls for an authentic culinary experience.


Visiting the Summer Palace and the Yuanmingyuan allows you to traverse the grandeur and complexity of China’s imperial past. From the serene gardens and iconic structures of the Summer Palace to the haunting ruins of the Yuanmingyuan, these two destinations offer a unique blend of history, nature, and cultural exploration.

Our family was deeply moved by this journey through time, and we hope that you, too, will have the opportunity to discover the beauty and significance of these incredible imperial wonders in Beijing. Until next time, happy travels!